Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The State of Rice Production in the Philippines

Rice fields in the Philippines

The rice farming situation in the Philippines is getting closer to dire and almost non-existent. We used to be the largest rice producer in southeast Asia but has now become one of the largest importers in the region. More and more farmers are forgoing the fields in search of better alternatives or selling their lands to land developers converting the much needed planting fields into housing developments.

Farmers who quit the lands are usually those with little to gain and much to loose. Farming in the Philippines is still pretty much dependent on manual labor and other outdated means that seemed to have survived us since the times of the Spanish occupations. Most farmers still plow the fields with carabaos, plant the seeds by hand, spray fertilizers manually and still harvest mostly manually. And there are even some areas that still rely on rain for irrigation.

Farming in general is not subsidized by the government. Funding would usually come from cooperatives that lend them money with interest, but not all areas have working cooperatives and some might not get approved for the loans. In the absence of this option, most farmers would look to private lenders. They would usually turn to better off neighbors and pledge their farms and a portion of their harvest. In a perfect world this would be an okay alternative. However the weather in the Philippines is as unpredictable as its government. What might look to be a promising harvest now could all of a sudden be destroyed by a freak typhoon or heavy rains. If at the end of this harvest period the farmer is not able to meet the pledge required he will be expected to fulfill this obligation in the next planting season. If the same thing continues to occur, the end pledge would be such that almost none would be left for the farmer in his harvest and so he will be forced to accrue another debt or loose the ownership of his rice fields.

Research into rice production has been going on for decades. In point of fact, the IRRI or International Rice Research Institute in Los Banos has been the beacon of knowledge when it comes to rice planting in the Southeast Asia region. Representatives from neighboring countries would come and visit in order to learn better techniques in rice production from our own IRRI scientists. So why then are most of our farmers still stuck in the dark ages when it comes to rice production. And despite of large acres of arable lands, our rice production continue to miss the quota every year?

A probable explanation would be attitude. Most farmers, comfortable with their own methods are not always willing to change or put in more effort when introduced with some new methods in improving rice production. Another reason would probably be the size of rice output per planting season. Most farmlands are parcels with a different owner for every few hectares, as such most only produce yields enough for the owner's consumption. Another cause would be the big company rice buyers. Most would usually hold on to their rice supply until they could be sold at a much higher price. But since low supply and high demand results in rice importation, cheaper rice becomes available in the market and it's the local small farmers that suffer in the end.

According to IRRI, they have been working hand in hand with the Philippine government to solve this issue since 2010. Let's hope that in the near future, a change of attitude and production will be on hand.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Truth About the Aswangs

Last week Grimm featured a Wesen (pronounced vesen) called the aswang. For those of you who are not familiar with Grimm, it's a US series featuring a detective who also moonlights as the Grimm. The Grimm is a human with supernatural strength whose main purpose in life is to hunt down Wesens-- supernatural creatures who walk among us like normal human beings. According to, last weeks episode of the aswang was due to its Sgt. Wu character who in real life is Reggie Valdez, a Filipino born native of Quezon City.

What Are the Aswangs Really?

In the Grimm episode "Mother Dearest", the aswang was featured as a gray-shape-shifting monster that eats its firstborn's firstborn while still inside the mother's womb in order to stay alive. But what does Philippine folklore really say about the aswang?

According to my uncles whose favorite past-time is to scare us little kids with stories of aswangs and other mystical creatures, the aswang is actually a sort of general term for monsters that prey on sick people and pregnant women. There are two known types, the tik-tik and the manananggal.

The Tik-Tik

The tik-tiks are shape-shifting aswangs. The most popular form they usually take is a big black dog but they can also turn into small animals when they need to escape. The tik-tik is called a tik-tik because of the sound they make that goes like tick-tick tick-tick. One thing to remember about the tik-tiks is that if you hear the ticking sound on your roof they are most probably on the opposite side of the house meaning the lower floor or vice versa. Native Filipino houses were made of wood with a roof made of nipa or weaved anahaw with an elevated floor for the living quarters. The existence of the silong, the gap between the ground and the floor, and the anahaw roof makes it easier for the tik-tiks to attack either from the roof or the silong.

A typical bahay kubo

The Manananggal

The name manananggal probably came from the verb tanggal which in english means to remove. The manananggals are said to have the ability to separate the upper part of their body from the lower half. The upper part grows a bat like super wide spanned wings. In order to make this happen, the manananggal would put on a special oil all over her body when it's time to prowl for food. I say her because all of the stories I know about manananggals always mention a woman. While the tik-tiks seem to be predominantly male.

Facts About the Aswangs

  • Aswangs eat fetuses by either turning into an animal that can crawl or sit on top of the pregnant mother's belly button or through its threadlike tongue that it drops down from the roof.
  • Sick people and pregnant women smell like pizza to the aswangs.
  • Aside from fetuses aswangs also love to eat human liver.
  • When a fetus is eaten by an aswang, the mother would appear to have a miscarriage and give birth to premature dead babies.
  • Aswangs can levitate sick people in order to get to their livers.
  • Aswangs do not fly like superman, instead they walk and levitate and gets to point A from point B really fast.
  • Aswangs walk slightly floating off the ground, you will only see this if you peak between your legs while leaning your body downwards.
  • Aswangs cannot stare you in the face, they would always look at you from the corner of their eyes.
  • Aswangs can turn another person into an aswang through their saliva
  • You can test if a person who entered your house is an aswang by placing a walis tingting by your main door upside down. If the person starts to look uncomfortable and wants to get out of the house but can't, it's a sign that he/she might be an aswang.
  • The aswangs have to transfer their power to a member of her/his family at the point of death, otherwise he/she won't be able to die and continue to suffer.
  • Said power is in the form of a pearl like stone that the aswang will release from his/her mouth and the receiving family member will have to swallow it in order to complete the transfer.
  • There is a particular island in the Philippines where they say all the aswangs came from.
  • Your neighbor can be an aswang.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Day in Singapore

Here is a post long overdue... -------------
The Sands Hotel and Casino view from the Science Museum - Singapore

A few months back, one Saturday after work my friends and I decided to pack our backpacks and buy ourselves two-way bus tickets to Singapore. Living in Kuala Lumpur, that was a very easy thing to do as the tiny island country is only about 5 - 6 hours away depending on how long the bus drivers decide to stay on each stop, and how long the traffic and queue is to pass through the immigration gates both from the Malaysian side to the Singapore border.

It was going to be my first time in Singapore. As the bus rolled off the modern highways of Malaysia I thought of Manila and what my brother would probably be doing at that moment. I thought of Bicol and what my parents would probably be doing at that hour. And I thought why travelling was so difficult when I was still in the Philippines when it was this easy now that I'm working in Malaysia. Going cross country, on a whim, was something up there among the list of impossible things to do. 

Every time I go through immigration I always have this small fear of getting indefinitely detained and questioned and then turned home just because I'm carrying a Filipino passport. I guess it comes from stories I've heard of Filipinos getting detained in airports and then sent home. Most of them would have tourist visas. But without any intention of returning home. I can't say I blame them, my father was an illegal worker himself for 16 years in Japan, but these actions have serious repercussions not just in the travelling status of Filipinos but in the families they leave behind. I know. I've been there. 

As I walked towards the Singaporean immigration officer I felt the butterflies in my stomach fly. I probably just imagined the stern, serious look, or is it a requisite that all immigration officers should always look serious and never smile? The officer gave a cursory look at my passport, asked how long I was staying, and stamped. I heaved a sigh of relief and smiled. 

Being a "whim trip", none of us booked any room nor planned any itinerary. We arrived in the streetlamp lit streets of Singapore at four in the morning. We had absolutely no idea where we were staying nor where we were going. On top of that, we only had Malaysian Ringgits in our pockets with only one of our friends carrying some Singapore dollars on hers. It was enough for us to get a cab and buy ourselves some dimsum which we decided was a little bit expensive seeing the size of what was advertised as large dimsum. Singapore is an expensive country, and we are not Singaporeans.
At 5AM Singapore time we started our tour. Needless to say, it was a walking tour. No Singapore dollars, no cab. And since it was the wee hours of the morning there was no point in finding a hostel either. We found ourselves aimlessly walking the streets of Singapore's financial district. It was just like the streets of the Makati financial district in Manila where I used to work, except in Makati the streets are never empty of people. I guess I was expecting something a little bit flashier. Then came the roar of a Ferrari. 
We ended on the shores of the Marina Bay, bags behind our backs. We watched the lights coming from the three towers of the Marina Bay Sands and the interesting shapes of the concrete petals of the Science Museum. This alien landscape made me think of sci-fi movies. I tried to take some pictures but the light was too poor for my cellphone's camera. It was just like me to come to a trip unprepared, I vowed next trip I'm taking a better camera. We met stylish Singaporeans just coming out of classy clubs. I wonder what they must have thought about our baggy shorts and baggy shirts? 

Tired and sleepy from the overnight bus trip we tried to sleep it off on the benches dotting the river passage beside the Theatre on the Bay, like some helpless and homeless street people. We were probably the only helpless and homeless street people of Singapore that morning. 
As the sun reached its zenith, and after a bit of a struggle understanding the bus driver's Singlish, we found ourselves on the busy thoroughfare of Orchard road. Instead of the Singlish and Chinese we heard people talking in Tagalog everywhere. It was just like being in Manila again. It was Sunday. All the Ates were out taking their days off. And they were all in their best clothes. High heels and skinny jeans and sometimes daring tops. Others in flowing dresses. All were excitedly chattering, sometimes shouting in Tagalog. It was their day to be themselves, to eat adobo at the Filipino restaurant and reconnect with Filipino friends. To alleviate homesickness and get in touch with the latest news back home. The Ates are the helps and yayas we grew up with and who had left us looking for greener pastures. Who else from the Philippines have not gone abroad in search of greener pastures anyway? While the rest of the world travel to seek themselves and find adventure, the Filipinos leave home to find a better life. Or at least we hope. While most of the world can easily come home when they get tired of traveling, most Filipinos banish themselves, sometimes for life. I have yet to visit a country where I won't run into any fellow Filipino.

Right there on Orchard road, with its rows of signature and designer clothes which none of us could afford, we found an echo of home. Albeit a small corner. But as the day wore on, we were reminded that we were not in Manila anymore after all. The train stations with their fast escalators and fast trains were all modern and clean. The city was all about efficiency. The architecture modern. Here people could afford to walk the streets in Prada and Louboutins.. in Manila Gap is a signature brand.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Pasko na Sinta ko: A Christmas Tribute to all Filipinos Spending Their Christmasses Away from Family and Home

It's always fun reminiscing about Christmas in the Philippines, especially of Christmas for children in the Philippines. There is probably no place else in the world where it's more fun to celebrate Christmas than in the Philippines. Of course, I could be biased. I'm talking about Christmas in my home after all. If you want to get at least an idea of what I'm talking about, let Mikey Bustos tell you all about it.

For us Filipinos spending Christmas away from our homes, it's a bit different of course. Especially Filipinos working in non-Christian countries. Although Christmas might be celebrated, the real spirit is just not there. To none Christians the only aspect captured is the material part, which is well, material gifts. And there is no carolling, no christmas songs repeatedly playing in the radios. No christmas trees and no blinking christmas lights in front of homes to light our ways.

To Filipinos celebrating their Christmases at home, remember your family who is not there with you. Celebrate Christmas for what it is, and not just for the material things. For those celebrating Christmas with their family complete, cherish it. Not all of us are as lucky as you are. To those who for the first time will be celebrating their Christmas after losing a family or a friend, remember your lost loved ones with all the happy memories that they have left you with.

Here is a song rendered by Gary Valenciano, Pasko na Sinta ko.

Maligayang pasko po sa ating lahat at manigong bagong taon!!!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Pinoy Jokes

WARNING: Might contain corny and green jokes. If you have aversion to corny jokes please do not read. If you have strong aversion to green jokes please do not read. If symptom persists consult a psychiatrist.


Filipinos have a propensity to make light of anything and everything. Even in times of great distress we always find ways to make a joke out of things. Please don't get us wrong, we do not mean to appear apathetic or insensitive. It just makes it easier for us to take and survive difficult situations.

Here is a list of pinoy quote jokes which I blatantly and unabashedly plagiarized from other pinoys on the net. I hope they don't mind.

Pinoy Quote Jokes

“oo na, maganda na ang kutis mo! Ikaw kaya dito sa pwesto ko. Tingnan ko lang kung hindi ka magkutis matanda! Hmp!” ~ bayag

“Subukan mo kaya na kalimutan na ako at wag ng puntahan. Di naman sa pagyayabang. Lalapit ka pa rin sa akin.” ~ inodoro

“Sana naisip mo lahat ng sakripisyo ko! Hindi ako panakip butas!” ~ panty

“Hindi lahat ng malakas, ‘Superhero’” ~putok

“Hindi lahat ng walang shorts ay bastos!” ~Winnie the Pooh

“Hindi lahat ng labi masarap halikan” ~Diego

“Hindi lahat ng dugo pwedeng i-donate! Okey?” ~regla

“Hindi lahat ng macho may bigote” ~ Vina Morales

“Sana brief na lang ako!” ~ Rustom Padilla

“Kung ginalingan mo ang pagsupsop habang matigas pa ako, hindi ka malalagkitan o magkakatulo! Mabagal kang kumilos! Mabagal ka! Mabagaaaal!!!!” ~ ice candy

“Pano tayo makakabuo kung hindi ako papatong sayo?!” ~ LEGO

“Hindi lahat ng maasim ay Vitamin C…” ~ Kili-kili

“Pilitin mo man na alisin ako sa buhay mo …. Babalik at babalik ako.” ~ Libag

“Tigilan mo na nga ang pangangalabit mo! Bibilugin mo na naman ako!” ~ Kulangot

“Bakit mo ba pilit akong mawala sa iyong landas? Oo, pasaway ako kung minsan at tanggap ko. Pero pagkatapos mo akong iluwal ay ganon na lang?” ~ tae sa bowl

“Hala! Sige! Magpakasasa ka! Alam ko namang katawan ko lang ang habol niyo!” ~ Hipon

“Pinapaikot mo lang ako. Nagsasawa na ako. Mabuti pang patayin mo na lang ako.” -electric fan

“Alam mo ba wala akong ibang hinangad kundi ang mapalapit sayo. Pero patuloy ang pag-iwas mo.” -ipis

“Ayoko na! Pag nagmamahal ako lagi na lang maraming tao ang nagagalit! Wala ba akong karapatang magmahal?!?” -gasolina

“Hindi lahat ng green ay masustansya.” -plema

“Hindi ko hinahangad na ipagmalaki mo na ako’y sayo. Ayoko ko lang naman na sa harap ng maraming tao ganun mo na lang ako itanggi.” -utot

“Sawang sawa na ako palagi nalang akong pinagpapasa-pasahan, pagod na pagod na ako.” -bola

“You never know what you have till you lose it. And once you lose it, you can never get it back.” -snatcher

“Hindi lahat ng pink, KIKAY!” -majinboo

“Ginawa ko naman lahat para sumaya ka. Mahirap ba talagang makontento sa isa? Bakit palipat-lipat ka?” -TV

“Hindi lahat ng maasim may Vitamin C.” -kili kili

“Sige, batihin mo ako. Sigeee. BATEEEEEE!!!!!!!!” -omelette

“Wag mo na akong bilugin.” -kulangot

“Hindi lahat ng pwet nasa likod.” - keanna reeves

“Tandaan mo na minsan kelangan tayo saktan at ibaon ng iba para malaman natin ang ating silbi, tsaka natin maiisip, mahalaga pala tayo.” - pako

“Alam kong may gusto ka sa akin. pasimple ka. Bakit di mo pa ako seryosohin? Pero bago ang lahat, gusto ko alam mo na hindi ako easy-to-get.” - 1.0 classcard

“Bakit ba kelangan pang sterilized and needle sa lethal injection?” - leo echagaray

"Pila-pila lang. Walang tulakan! Lahat tayo makakalabas.” - tae

“Hindi mo alam. Malay mo. Ewan mo. Sawang-sawa na ako! Isa lang naman ang pakiusap ko sayo eh. Sagutin mo ako ng matino.” - test paper

“Wala naman akong ginagawa sa kanya. hindi na nga ako gumagalaw dito. Ako na yung natapakan siya pa ang galit.” - tae

“Halika, bigyan mo pa ako ng init. Kailangan kong pumutok para ako’y iyong matiman at ika’y masasarapan. Ayan na! Puputok na!” - popcorn

“I admit. Marami na akong pinadapa! Pinagapang! Nahulog sa kanal! Pinag-away! Nasaktan! Pero anong magagawa ko? Eh sa kayo ang naglalaway sa akin. Im sorry.” - red horse

“Work is the greatest thing in the world. So i always save some of it for tomorrow!” - juan tamad

“You can cry all you want. You can always blame me! You said i wasn’t fair, that you just want life to be better. But remember, IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT! You stabbed me with a knife!” - sibuyas

“Inaruga n’yo ako, pinakain at pinalaki! lahat ibinigay n’yo sa akin, tapos ipagpapalit n’yo lang ako sa pera?!” - hinanakit ng baboy sa buong mundo

“Hindi malutong yung french fries sa Jollibee. Hindi lutong-luto yung chickenjoy, at walang lasa ang burger! Ban Jollibee!” - ronald mcdonald

“Alam ko marami na akong tanong sayo, pero nagtatanong lang naman ako, Sana wag mo ako murahin patalikod pag di mo masagot mga tanong ko… ” -test paper

“hindi mo ako kayang lunurin!!! bwahahaha!” -palitaw

“ang yabang mo pinagtatawanan mo ako? samantalang dati gustong gusto mo ako…” -Nokia 5110

“Kung makapalo ka, parang anak mo ako ah?!” -ipis

“Sa lahat ng pupuntahan mo lagi mo akong sinasama. Pag papasok ka ng bahay, ako ang unang hinahanap mo. Pero pag tayong dalawa nalang ang magkasama sa bahay, hindi mo na ako pinapansin.”- susi ng bahay

“hindi lahat ng hinog ay matamis.” - nana

“pangalan ko’y nakakadiri ngunit patuloy mo pa rin akong hinahaplos-haplos at hinahawakan, bakit kaya?”— mouse

"hindi lahat ng nginunguya eh nilulunok" -bubble gum

"hindi lahat ng kabayo apat ang paa" - diego

“nahihilo ako waaa” -cd na nsa loob ng CPU

“kung mahal mo nga ako, yakapin mo ko” - sabi ng cactus

“Plakaplatik plik plak pak papak pakpik ptik kitikakkaktik kiktiki tikak plak plakakik plak pak papaki pipak pakpik.” -watusi

“Grabe! Biruin mo, P15,000daw hot oil lang! P150,000 ang rebonding! Sobra naman yang David’s na yan! Hmpf!” - Rapunzel

“Bawal tumawid dito. Nakamamatay.” -MMDA

"Bawal tumawid dito. May namatay na." - MMDA

“Hindi ko kailanman intensyon ang lumayo,lumipad…at mawala…Kaya wag mo sana akong bitawan.” -lobo

“hindi masarap ang ketchup!” -mang tomas

“Hindi lahat ng babaeng my long black shiny hair ay kinagigiliwan!” -sadako

“hindi lahat ng nagfafoundation at lipstick ay bading!!” -Ronald McDonald

“Ako lang ang nag padugo ng ilong ni Manny Pacquiao! Wahahahahah!” -English

” .” -pipi

And some more.....

"Hindi lahat ng malamig, refreshing" - bangkay

"Hindi lahat ng maputi cute." - white lady

"Anong sabi ng sipon sa kulangot?"

"E ano naman ang sabi ng utot sa tae?"
- Mauna na ko sayo ha

"E ang tae sa tae?"
- Tangina! Walang tulakan! Pila-pila lang!

"Bakit may sabaw ang balot?"
- Kung ikaw kaya ikulong sa shell, saan ka jijingle? Aber! Saan?!? Saan?!!?